Saturday, August 20, 2005

Are They Worth Praying Over?

My mother and I had to question the wisdom of the New York Times, which saw "fit to print" way more sordid and salacious details from the Dennis Rader trial than could reasonably fit in anyone's definition of "news." Did we really need to know that one of his eleven year-old victims wore mary jane's when she was murdered? This particular details plays too close to school girl snuff fantasies to deserve an outing in the Times. Shame.

Reading Rader's testimony was like reading something right out of the Marquis de Sade, only without the sick humor. And with de Sade, we have very little evidence that he actually committed many of the horrid depravities he wrote about and imagined.

But BTK, despite his tears and remorse (which seemed genuine for his own family but did not extend much beyond them) has a similar kind of insouciance, a sneering sense of pride in his own perversity that approaches de Sade's tone and approach to cruelty. "I'm sorry," he remarked. "I know this [his victim] is a human being, but I'm a monster."

He is beyond despicable. He is beyond hatred, although I certainly hate him purely and completely, and I don't intend to give that up for Yom Kippur or for Lent. He is beyond my concept of God's grace, but I'll leave the fate of his soul to the Lord, as it's none of my business (perhaps the Universalists would like to take a shot at it?).

I sincerely hope that he will be tormented in prison, painfully and for a long time. I hope that he will die painfully in prison, but only after long , terrible suffering. Only then may he learn compassion (suffering with) in its true sense.

I don't much care if that's not very Christian of me. I never claimed to be a good Christian. I claim to be a practicing Christian.

Beyond the atrocities committed upon the bodies and personhood of his victims, BTK -- in his monumentally evil egotism -- dared to keep a file he called "Afterlife Concepts," wherein he assigned his victims roles in his fiendish eternity. His eleven year old victim would be his sexual toy. Another would be his personal slave. And so on. I'm not sure that even the Marquis deSade went so far as to defile the eternal soul of his victims, even as de Sade railed in grandiose manner against all the sacraments and ceremony of the Church (so much so that one begins to laugh and enjoy it. Or maybe that's just me appreciating the high drama that approaches farce).

I should think that while the criminal justice system decides BTK's fate as a citizen, religious people might seriously consider his spiritual fate, and certainly that of his victims. Remember Shirley Ceasar, the great and mighty gospel singer, singing ~

"SATAN, we're gonna tear your kingdom down!
SATAN we're gonna tear your kingdom down!
You've been BUILDing your KINGdom all over this land,
SATAN, we're gonna tear your kingdom down (oh glory to God).

The mothers are gonna pray your kingdom down.
The mothers are gonna pray your kingdom down.
You've been building your kingdom
all in the house of God.
SATAN, we're gonna tear your kingdom down!" (And etc.)

Dennis Rader's kind of evil invites spiritual warfare; a concept quite foreign to religious liberals. Sure, yes, absolutely, fix the neurology, fix the chemistry, fix the socio-economic system, fix the Church, fix the schools, fix the society, protest porn, protest repression, protest all you want, however you want. Yes, I know he's still a human. I know he's not Satan. I know he's a product of many factors. I know. I know. And I'm asking for spiritual warfare because not only did he annhilate their bodies, he made claims on their souls.

So, religious people:
Pray, if you will, for the souls of those dead by BTK's hand, who by any animistic religion's definition are sure candidates for "hainthood," and who left their bodies in a state of extreme terror, agony, horror and likely sense of abandonment. Pray for them because he intends to populate his heaven with them.

I know this is hard reading for a snarky little blog, but I think it needs to be said. There is far more to these crimes than what was done to the victims. There is spiritual consequence. There are souls at stake. I am a Christian and I do believe that those souls are beyond pain and that they rest in the peace of God. But while their tormenter still lives and still holds them to him by this terrible, vile intimacy of claiming them for his own afterlife, I think it's well worth it to pray them over, and pray them over, and pray them over again.

These are the names by which they were known in this life:

Julie, Josephine and Joseph Otero.
Kathyrn Bright.
Shirely Vian.
Nancy Fox.
Marine Hedge.
Vicki Wegerle.
Dolores E. Davis.

"...neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God..." -- Romans 8:38


Blogger fausto said...

Amen, amen, amen for the souls of BTK's victims.

But speaking as one inadequate, halfway, incomplete, heterodox cafeteria UU Christian to another, I think you may be being too hard on BTK himself.

If in classical Unitarian theology Jesus was not identical with God, then neither is BTK identical with Satan, yet despite the words of your mouth (or keyboard?) you don't seem able to draw that distinction quite so clearly in your gut. BTK is not Satan, even though when he committed these heinous sins he was entirely in what some Christians would call "Satan's bondage". I share your hatred for what he did, but there is something in the pureness of your hatred for him and your desire to see him suffer that strikes me as not-of-God.

So I pray for BTK as well as his victims. I see, or at least imagine I see, the beginning of something redemptive going on in his religious journey and his criminal confession, and I still have faith in the Good Shepherd who will bring every last one of his sheep safely home. Just as the historic Unversalist Church affirmed "the certainty of just retribution for sin", it also affirmed "the final harmony of all souls with God". Even BTK's.

"'Vengeance is mine', saith the Lord". BTK has his own just retribution and work of reconciliation to face. When we allow our own fear and hatred to overcome our nobler sentiments, we are only allowing "Satan" into our own house and adding to our own need for reconciliation.

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Luke 15:4-7

Blogger Chalicechick said...

I'm with Fausto, though I'm not sure I could write it that well.

I remember when I heard that a Christian church near Columbine High School had planted trees for the killers right along with the killed, I felt things for Christianity that I hadn't felt in a long time.

I don't find his afterlife fantasies all that spiritually significant. Personally, I would have perjured myself rather than admit to those, but maybe that's why he's the crazy guy who kills people and I'm not.

We've emailed before about my afterlife fantasies. My friends have always felt like my real family, and I want to have someplace fun where the bunch of us can just hang out and talk for a long time, eventually moving on to a higher plane of existance when we feel we are ready, an existance that will be eternal contemplation before God.

So for she who grew up lonely, works too hard and loves to converse, heaven is a lot of goofing off and two long conversations, one with her best friends and one with God.

The CSO and I have a long-running argument over this one. For the autistic, heaven is nothingness. And I don't want to be alone.

As a kid, heaven for me was a giant cocktail party, the kind I wasn't allowed to go to. Heaven was adulthood.

I tend to think that unless we're very spiritually mature, our heaven reflects who we are and what we need.

This was a crazy guy who killed people. What should we be expecting?


Blogger fausto said...

(CC's comments above remind me that, thanks to a recent post by Will Shetterly, I'm radically rethinking my own ideas of the afterlife, after learning that the Pastafarians teach the existence of a beer volcano in heaven.)

Blogger PeaceBang said...

You're good people, and far better Christians than I.
But you're thinking about him, and I'm still thinking about what it would be like to spend my last minutes in his clutches, hanging from his rope, and how dark and howling a wilderness that must be.

I believe that the true sadist never fully partakes of humanity until pain is inscribed on his own body as he has inscribed it onto the bodies of others. In my own primitive way (I suppose it's more primitive than "turn the other cheek") I believe he may be redeemed. But not until he suffers, and suffers greatly.

As Fausto points out, God teaches us that S/He has other ways of achieving this, but I don't feel that generous myself.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

I'm not better. I'm probably worse. To be honest, I can't get my head around what it would be like, so for me there's no feeling attached. I mean, I understand that in theory it would be terrible, but I can't honestly say I have my head around what his victims went through in the sense that it sounds like you do.

Other people manage to love and hate famous people whose actions they know but whom they do not know personally. I can never seem to do that.



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